Writing and publishing a book isn’t the end of the writing process. The next step is, of course, marketing your product and getting people to buy your book. Juliet Clark talks about the marketing process today with author coach, editor, and writer Maggie Mills, an experienced publishing and marketing executive. Maggie talks about her start in the publishing world, working with authors to improve their writing, ghostwriting, and bringing an air of authenticity to a book. Maggie and Juliet also talk about buying triggers, what works and what doesn’t in marketing, and how buying habits impact book sales and marketing campaigns.
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Getting People To Buy Your Book: The Art Of Conceptualizing And Marketing With Maggie Mills
We have Maggie Mills on. You are going to enjoy her. Before we jump into this, I want to remind you to go over and take the Promote Profit Publish Quiz at www.PromoteProfitPublishQuiz.com. Find out if you’re ready to publish. You can’t just be the random publisher these days where you go and publish and hope somebody buys your book. You have to have that audience built, especially if you have a business behind it. You better have a way to monetize everything you’re doing. It can’t just be the book because the book is not going to make you a ton of money. Don’t forget to go over to YouTube, follow us at Superbrand Publishing and subscribe. Our guest is Maggie Mills. She is a tenured advertising and publishing executive. She has served as an executive director, chief content officer, designer and writer. Through it all, her passion remains for the creative team. There is nothing more exciting than brainstorming for the client. Maggie takes a project from doodles to creating the concept, assembling the team, launching the project and delivering results that consistently thrill. Welcome. How are you?
I am already having fun.
Tell us a bit about your advertising and publishing experience.
I would like to say that I don’t go as far back as Mad Man. However, that mindset was still in existence when I started in the business. The three-martini lunches and people were very well dressed. I admired that. I worked in Baltimore City. To be well-dressed meant that you were in a dress and high heels at all times. I remember trying to negotiate the ice, walking down Charles Street in high heels like, “I have to be professional. I can’t fall on my face.” That has changed a little bit. I started with advertising and worked my way into publishing. I have been writing for years and realized that most of my work was writing, which I loved. I love advertising. I want to touch on something you said about knowing how to market your book and keeping these publishing ideas in mind before you even start to write because that is so important.
Many people write their book with the hopes and wishes or the firm belief that everyone is going to love their story, which is entirely possible. The nice thing about having this crazy advertising career is that as I’m working with a client, if I am ghostwriting their book, coaching them or whatever, I have that marketing mindset the whole time I am writing. A lot of people want to use their business books to help promote their speaking careers. If they tell stories in the book, I’ll say, “Let’s add one that talks about something that happened while you were speaking.” We are planting seeds about what you would like to do with your book. Is this something you want your family to read? Do you want to sell it at your speaking engagements? Do you want to make money off of it? Let’s bear that in mind while we are writing.Inspiration can come from any source, no matter what their background and what their religious belief is. Click To Tweet
One of the reasons we started using the quiz was so many people came in. Marketing is a guess when you first start if you can have your ideal client. Your ideal client is a guess until you validate that. What we were going for here is let’s validate your ideas before you write a whole book that nobody reads.
That A/B testing even on covers and names, plus it’s another way to promote your book. I’m preaching to the choir here but then again, we both do the same thing.
You are validating the choir. How is that?
I’m going to use that. I’m not preaching. I’m validating.
Preaching sounds so naggy. Do you ever notice the difference? If you’re a nag at work, there is a word for you. If you are a woman, you are proactive at work. If you are a nag at home, there is a word for that.
My vernacular stems from growing up a Southern Baptist, so preach it.
There was no dancing. I was sent to Baptist University. There was no washing of the car or going to movies on Sunday. There is a whole list of things that I forgot.
My grandmother was Baptist and I did a lot of daily vacation Bible school. Off of the Bible school and onto this topic. I know we were going to go off on some tangents. I do remember those days when I had to dress. I remember my first week at Chiat\Day was right before Christmas. I drank my way through the first two weeks of my job. I had tequila on my desk. We all had alcohol on our desks. Up until then, I wondered why in the interview to get the job, one of their points was they had the best drug and rehab. That was one of their benefits, “We have the best wine in the industry.” My first two weeks there was like, “I get it now.”
At least they offered drug and rehab to you all.
Not that I needed it but probably by the end, I did. There was a lot of drinking going on with that job.
It’s too much fun.
It was a great job to have when you were single. It’s not so much when you were married with kids. The kid part of it and the travel were awful. When you are ghostwriting a book with people, what is that process you go through? You have to extract a lot of information from people.
I began to think it’s a bit like therapy for some people. That’s not a bad thing because there’s always some personal-business crossover, depending on whatever type of book it is. Even if it’s just a strict business book, you want to give a little bit of their background. You tell their story and there is some struggle about starting their business. Those personal stories will make it more interesting for the reader. I continually ask, “Is it okay to use this in the book because this is good? Please let me use it. We’ll just change his name.” There are several ways. A lot of what we do now is recorded Zoom calls. I get the transcriptions from the calls and I start writing based on that. We’ll create an outline. We do Zoom calls. Each author gives me a different amount of leeway. Some people want to be verbatim. Other people want me to make up 90% of their life. I’m fine with that because I make them far more interesting.
Is it them that’s healing or you? Every time I wrote a book, I would have a significant amount of personal growth happened. There would be something in it that would be like, “Where did that come from? I need to heal that.”
It’s fascinating that you bring that up because that’s a valid point. For the most part, I remain emotionally detached. I have talked to people about murders. I have written about murders. I have written about terrible things that happen in their careers. I was working with an author who was talking about her family fleeing Saigon before the fall and trying to get on a barge. I am reading something she sent me. I said, “This is the first time any of my authors have ever made me cry. I’m sitting here weeping at your story. You don’t need me. Your story is powerful. You tell it well.” For me, I do learn from every author. I see what they are going through. I look at circumstances sometimes like a mirror. Do I need to confront this issue myself? Have I already moved through it? Is there some way that in the process of working with the author, I can get them to recognize some things? That has happened.
I was working with a female author who had come from an abusive marriage. She had gone to women’s support groups. Her stated motivation for writing this book was to empower other women. The whole process, the beginning of the marriage and now she is writing the book was twenty years. Yet, she was still saying things to other women like, “The minute he hits you, get out. There is no excuse for not leaving.” I tried to soft-pedal that a little bit because having done some research about this and being familiar with the topic, on average, an abused person will go back to the relationship at least six times.Self-promotion is what keeps the mortgage paid and buys the dog food. It's all about supporting the dogs. Click To Tweet
If she was that involved with therapy and these groups, that’s something she should understand. Even though we all want to shake people we see, you grab them by the shoulders and go, “Get the heck out of there. What are you thinking?” There is something much deeper going on. Instead of getting upset with her insensitivity, let’s introduce some ideas to her. I will insert bits of research. I will quote someone who talks about that. I try to do it subtly. You reach a point sometimes where you’re like, “Do I want to make this person sound intelligent and empathetic?” or “I have been working with her for six months to try to improve that. Maybe I should let her sound like this.”
You are teetering on authenticity versus what it should be like which is tough. I remember this one woman that I talked to about a bestseller campaign. She was a former high-end call girl. I imagine this woman who stands on street corners. She was teaching other women how to get them out of their dreams. I had this idea of her in my head. I met her and she was the loveliest, most beautiful person. I almost felt bad about the way I was thinking about her previous to that, my judgment. That is teetering on authenticity versus not. What happens if you soften her and they meet her in person and go, “What?”
For the two of us, our marketing mind is always in the background. How are we going to sell it? How are we going to get good reviews if somebody reads them? It’s authenticity. I had that question answered for me by two people. I’m a liberal individual. I do have this Southern Baptist background. I have written for a couple of ministers. Good advice is good advice. Inspiration can come from any source, no matter what their background and what their religious belief is. I will write for anyone. If they’re comfortable contracting with me not knowing who I am, then let’s go for it.
I got this one job and the best way I can describe this man was hellfire and brimstone. His whole approach was very fear-based, terrifying, everything is a sin and Satan is everywhere. He spoke like he had been possessed by the spirit of an Old Testament prophet. He had a strong voice. It completely counters to my position on life, positive, healing, forgiving and accepting. There’s none of that at all in this book. I was talking to my son about this work and he said, “Mom, how can you write for someone like that?” I said, “If I turned it down, it would be like that bakery refusing to cook a cake for the gay couple. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I shouldn’t provide you service.” He didn’t respond a whole lot to that.
I was talking about this with another friend whose father was one of those traveling ministers. I’m explaining my situation. I said, “Am I promoting this fear and negativity? I’m still on the fence about this. I’m trying to make a good book for the guy, but am I going to encourage people to think that Satan is waiting for them in the closet?” He said, “Based on my experience, having grown up this way and survived it, you write the book just as he presents it. When somebody reads it, they might decide that it is all a bunch of ridiculous crap. They don’t need to be frightened. You could be doing somebody as service by writing and working on a project that you disagree with.” When he presented that to me, I went, “Put it out there. Quit worrying about the reader. I don’t have to mother the entire universe.”
I have a control freak in my world that I try to nod my head and go, “Yeah, whatever.” My thing is always, “Who died and made you master of the universe. Give it up.”
I can’t spread my Pollyanna ways with everyone.
That can be difficult though. We had a publishing situation where someone had the potential for an amazing book that could have helped many people and he made it all about himself.
I look at that like 9 out of 10 books.
They come in with the best intentions but there is a little bit of narcissism behind it. I felt terrible that he hired a ghostwriter and the ghostwriter didn’t step up and say, “Really?” He thought they were going to make a movie out of his book. Ghostwriting is hard because you have to temper that personality with their true intentions are and keep them on track. Do they want to help people or is this about them?
I like to do that by asking questions. Personal stories are valuable. It’s better for them than not because it gives some volume to the work. I have plenty of opinions all day long, but I never try to tell someone what to do. I will ask questions. I will say, “Have you thought about this? Why don’t we put a closing at the end of each chapter that’s going to draw the reader into your story? Do you have maybe three points that someone else can use to learn from your situation? What would you tell somebody else about that? How would you guide someone through a similar situation?” I try to lead them into remembering the reader, which goes back to what we talked about in the beginning. It is therapy. God blesses people who want to talk about themselves. I’m okay with that. Come on, write a book. Everybody has a story.
Tell me a bit about what goes on in your head when you are thinking about the marketing of the book. You are involved in the process. Do you get those ideas out to them early and get them going? I feel like people wait until the book is done and then they go, “I am ready to publish. I need marketing. I don’t have an audience. I want a bestseller.”
I’m thinking about it on the introductory call. I’m asking questions like, “Do you want to go hard copy? Is this going to be digital? Are you going to be distributing it where you speak?” I will ask about how they use it. Who do you see reading it? Usually, people say, “Everybody.” In an ideal world, that’s true. I will go on to say, “Marketing is tough. There are these analytics so let work on this. Everybody probably will read your book. Let’s aim our marketing at the demographic that will pull in the most readership for you.” I tell them things like, “It’s never too soon to start talking about your book on social media. You don’t have to sell it but you can be enthusiastic.” You can say, “I’m sitting in a coffee shop working on Chapter 3 of my book. This is fun. It brought up this topic for me. Has it ever happened for you?”
As we get a little longer in the process, that’s when people can say, “What do you think about these titles that I’m trying out for my book?” It is doing two things. It’s letting people know you have a book coming. It helps with choosing what’s going to sell, whether you’re showing pictures of possible covers for your book or getting ideas for the titles. One of the most valuable lessons I learned working in advertising is that sometimes, the best advertising minds, ideas and designs don’t necessarily sell. That thing that you think looks like total mud does. It’s low quality. It’s not attractive. You can’t tell what the public is going to like. I learned early on. Crap sells and that’s okay. I like the beautiful stuff that is going to win an Addy but at the end of the day, let’s make the people happy. They want to sell furniture or cars or their book.
We have a formula we use with people. It’s funny because I’m working on AI to show them instead of having them learn the formula. I can see their eyes glazing over like, “Nobody ever told me there were buyer triggers. Nobody ever told me there were certain people who would buy the book.” There are words, moods that I have to use with it. We found later when we use AI, it can show them. It’s much more powerful because they start getting like, “No wonder I can’t sell anything.”
You said something about words as triggers. That is a fascinating topic right there. Do you find those words are trending?
Not trending as much as who is this book aimed at, which you mentioned that the first thing they do is everybody. I had someone told me one time that there were over two million doctors waiting for this book. I doubt it. You can’t say that to a person. You can temper their expectations, but if they’re not listening, they’re not listening. What it does is focus on that audience. Most of our people have products and services. For them, the book is not the moneymaker. It’s the what can I sell? What authority can I build? That is where we get deep into, why are you writing this book? If you want a bigger audience, who is your actual audience? It’s taking them. What we do a lot of times with the quiz is the quiz is your ideal client. Taking the results of who bought from the quiz and using it in the AI saying, “Now I have gone from ideal which is imaginary and a guess to these are the people that buy over and over. How can I replicate that?” That is what we use the buyer triggers score and the AI on the best seller campaigns.
It’s for everybody to use that tool. Sometimes logic has no place in advertising.
It does and it doesn’t. When a lot of people don’t use people like you and me, they come up with these catchy ideas. They look catchy. They look sleek, but are they good ideas?
Sometimes I like to be wrong. I’m looking at something going, “There is no way in the world I would ever buy that. I hope I’m wrong.” I want to be wrong about things sometimes. The lack of logic and referring to your AI, which I completely believed in. I found that the behaviors people say that they are going to do and the behaviors they actually do. If you ask people, “Which of these publications do you read?” They are going to go, “I read the Wall Street Journal,” but they are reading People Magazine. Asking them is one thing, but watching their actual buying habits is another thing.
It’s more about what are those buyer triggers and what catches that personality type. It’s more in that space than anything. This is cool, Maggie. I’m excited to have you because this could go on and on forever.
I’m looking for hundred other things to talk about.
I know. I remember the first time we got on the phone. We didn’t know each other. We could have gone on and on. Where can we find you? If people need a ghostwriter, you guys have to understand the price points on a real ghostwriter. This is not, “I’m going to throw $2,000 at you.” People are always shocked when they hear how much ghostwriting is. There is so much that goes into what you do. You touched on a lot of it, the Zoom calls and the research. Where can people find you?
There are many places. TakeMaggiesWordForIt.com is a completely humble website. Maggie@MaggieMills.com is my email. Who doesn’t want to own their name as a URL? I think I was born with a marketing gene. Self-promotion is what keeps the mortgage paid and buys the dog food. It’s all about supporting the dogs.
Thank you, Maggie. I loved the story. Thank you for being on.
We had so much fun.
- Superbrand Publishing – YouTube
About Maggie Mills
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